Monthly Archives: May 2012

Gideon Rachman

Image via brookings.edu When Barack Obama entered office four years ago, many of the inmates of the Brookings Institution – Washington’s most venerable think-tank – moved across town to work for the new administration.

On the foreign policy side, the ex-Brookings people who joined Obama included Ivo Daalder (ambassador to Nato), Philip Gordon (assistant secretary of state for Europe), Jim Steinberg (deputy secretary of state, via the University of Texas) Jeff Bader (head of Asia at the NSC) and Jeremy Shapiro (policy planning at the State Department).

So a Brookings study of the Obama administration’s foreign policy is – to some extent – an inside job. The three Brookings-based authors of “Bending History: Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy” know their subject intimately. This has both merits and problems. On the plus side, Bending History is easily the most comprehensive and balanced study to date of Obama’s record as a foreign-policy president. On the minus side, the authors (Martin Indyk, Kenneth Lieberthal and Michael O’Hanlon) have a slight tendency to pull their punches. Still, given that so much political debate in Washington is now partisan shrieking, an excess of civility is a pardonable sin. Read more >>

John Paul Rathbone

Should Argentina, with its cavalier approach to economic policy, still have a place in the G20?

The debate is starting to generate heat, if not yet light. On May 11, Richard Lugar, the most senior Republican member of the US Senate foreign relations committee, introduced a non-binding “sense of Congress” resolution that calls on the US to suspend Argentina given its “outlaw behaviour”. This behaviour includes, most recently, Buenos Aires’ nationalisation of Spanish oil company Repsol’s stake in YPF, manipulation of inflation statistics, refusal to submit to an IMF review, and failure to comply with dozens of World Bank international settlement disputes. Read more >>

Gideon Rachman

Ecstasy and agony: UK PM David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and French President François Hollande watching the European Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Photo PA

Angela Merkel has not had a good weekend. She was close to being isolated at the Group of Eight summit. Barack Obama, François Hollande and David Cameron all ratcheted up the pressure on Germany to go for “growth” in Europe. This the Germans suspect, with some reason, is code for pouring more German money into southern Europe, tolerating higher inflation and monkeying around with European Central Bank independence.

Then Bayern Munich lost, at home, to Chelsea in the final of the Champions League. German officials had campaigned for a big-screen television to be put up at the Camp David summit, so the chancellor could watch the game. In the event the Bavarians lost, after dominating the whole match – and Ms Merkel was photographed looking like she was sucking on a lemon, while next to her Mr Cameron punched the air, and Mr Obama grinned inanely. Read more >>

Dr Jan Fidrmuc, Department of Economics and Finance and Centre for Economic Development and Institutions, Brunel University

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Anti-austerity protestors take to the streets in central Athens earlier this year. Getty Images

Following the rejection of EU imposed austerity measures by the overwhelming majority of Greek voters, eurozone finance ministers have once again come to Brussels to try and save the single currency in what is being described as a ‘crucial 48 hours’.

Two thirds of the Greek electorate voted for parties opposed to the austerity measures required by the European Commission, ECB and IMF as a precondition of a further bailout; despite the outgoing government pledging to adhere to these measures.

Without compromise either by the Greeks accepting austerity measures or the EU offering concessions on the proposed package, another election is inevitable. In this case the bailout package will be suspended, Greece will default on its debt and an exit from the eurozone may follow. None of this will offer much respite for the struggling Greek economy.

In the past the EU offered concessions to voters having rejected EU treaties, however this time there is little political will, and not only in Germany, to offer sweeteners to the Greeks to help them swallow the bitter pill of fiscal adjustment.

Why then are the Greeks fighting against the support from the EU? And should the rest of the EU let them resist or should they be offered a sweeter deal after all?

 Read more >>

Greece in political limbo

With Greece in political limbo ahead of a new election in June, what is the the economic and political future of that country and the eurozone? How feasible is for Greece to leave the euro, and how are other European countries managing the increasingly anti-bailout mood in Athens? Read more >>

Esther Bintliff

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Today we’re looking at Greece. Yup, again. But over the last week, the possibility that the Mediterranean country of 11 million people might actually leave the eurozone – a scenario long considered taboo – has become increasingly plausible. European policymakers and central bankers have gone from repeated assurances that a ‘Grexit’ would never, EVER happen, to a gradual admission that, yes, it’s possible. And if that’s the case, then the threat of contagion to the larger eurozone economies of Spain and Italy – and thus the broader single currency project – is magnified. Much will rest on the outcome of fresh elections in Greece on June 17. In the meantime: Read more >>

David Pilling

I just came across this revamped version of what purports to be North Korea’s official website. Even if it is not, and is just a fan site, it is a credit to what is described on the homepage as a genuine workers’ state in which “all the people are completely liberated from exploitation and oppression”.

I’ve never been to North Korea (visa still pending) but, from what I can make out from this site, it sounds like a pretty wonderful place. It is apparently the only country where “the workers, peasants, soldiers and intellectuals are the true masters of their destiny” and in a “unique position to defend their interests”. Read more >>

By Gideon Rachman

“Weak.” “Apologist.” Those two words are repeated endlessly in the Republican party’s attack on Barack Obama, as it tries to persuade voters that the US president is not worthy of another term as commander-in-chief.

Gideon Rachman

This advertisement for the Prague marathon – which I photographed in the airport, this weekend – strikes me as having an unfortunate slogan. I know that Czechs are not terribly happy with the their government. But a nation that is still worried about national sovereignty, after rule from Berlin and Moscow, might be a little more careful about how it words invitations to tourists.

Esther Bintliff

The eurozone crisis is back with a vengeance. In a Bloomberg poll published on Thursday, 57% of 1,253 Bloomberg subscribers said they believed at least one country would abandon the euro by year-end. No prizes for guessing which country they might be thinking of.

Greece’s political landscape shifted drastically after support for its two biggest parties collapsed in the general election, propelling the far left Syriza party into the spotlight. Spain, meanwhile, is set to miss its budget deficit target for this year and the next. The government also had to part-nationalise the troubled Bankia.

We rounded up the best reads on Spain for you last week. Now we take a look at one of the other countries currently at the centre of the crisis – Greece – and give you the top analysis and comment from the FT and elsewhere. Read more >>